DAMNED || LANDEL'S INSTITUTE

A Multifandom Asylum RPG


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Day 56: Twin Pines Restaurant (Early Afternoon)
[stand alone]
girlsandgadgets wrote in damned
Having spent almost the entire morning in the cold, Edgar finally decided it was time to address his groaning middle. It was hard enough to focus as he thumbed through the coupon book without his stomach doing flips: he was shivering, but still felt tremendous heat radiating from within him. The attempt at a nap on a park bench hadn't helped his fever, it seemed. Perhaps some food would.

That was granted that he was primarily hungry and not nauseated- after a while, they began to feel exactly the same. He had to assume it was mostly the former at this point, given how he'd eaten like a bird the day before- with what was on the menu at the institute as of late, it was easy to lose one's appetite. He'd been looking forward to the Doyleton trip for one last chance at a decent meal before a week of the pink slop; it was unfortunate he'd spent most of the day feeling as though he couldn't hold down anything he ate.

The restaurant looked pleasant enough from the inside- it was only a moment before one of the waitresses showed Edgar to a lone table and asked him what he'd like to drink. He sent her for water, not even bothering to attempt his usual flirtations (alas, a surefire sign he wasn't feeling like himself). As soon as she'd left, he pulled his sweater over his head; his brow was already feeling damp again. He put his elbows on the table, burying his eyes in his palms. He ached all over, worn from the oppressive blaze and the accompanying frustration. Who even knew if he'd live long enough to gain the magic that supposedly came with all the sickness?

No, he'd survive. Edgar took a deep breath- it rattled through him, the cold air of the day having not soothed his scorched throat in the least. While this was possibly the most ill he'd ever been, it wasn't the worst situation he'd faced. The feverish shakes and physical discomfort would go away eventually. What was truly worrying were the after effects: the promise of fire magic, introduced into him in a way that had left at least one notable person with shattered sanity. Even if his mind was intact and the sweltering suffering hadn't driven him mad- yet, anyway- the thought of magic presented in such a way left him uneasy. Fire was an immensely destructive force, and if it turned out it was beyond his control...

Edgar sighed, his hands cupping to cover the front of his face as he fought away another wave of queasiness. He closed his eyes- he could worry until he'd thought a hole in the ground, and it wouldn't do him any good. There were no other options: if he was truly going to be a magic-wielder again- or a Magitek Knight, as the doctor had put it- he'd learn to handle it. He wasn't certain of what would happen, but he knew he couldn't let them get the best of him.

[Lunge and L]

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In spite of what L now knew or could guess about his situation, a number of elements were still unclear, not least the most important one: a way out. If it were easy and obvious, someone should have managed it by this point. To his knowledge, no one had. When it came to developing a distinct path, he could put all his mental capacity towards it, but plans required tools, and he had few resources that were both tangible and reliable. That narrowed his options, and decreased the chance that any plan might succeed.

He understood the temptation to think that some of the patients who had disappeared might have been able to escape, but a problem existed with the idea: he had never come across credible information supporting it. It didn't seem that it could have happened without leaving a trace. Each time he considered that possibility, he came to a logical roadblock, related to typical, observable patient interactions, that made the chance seem infinitesimal. Therefore, the idea that some people were able to slip away into freedom in the night was most likely wishful thinking, not worth clinging to. Patients either physically died or were "released," and those in the latter category often reappeared with altered personalities on Visitors' Day.

It was also becoming hard to accept the proposition that his abduction to Landel's had extended his life. Instead, it had taken him out of his life and negated his ability to protect himself in any other way: the knowledge that he would have been killed in three days' time was useless without the ability to go into hiding to protect himself. The Institute itself wasn't the kind of hiding that he would have chosen to go into; given that Yagami and Amane had both been at Landel's in the past, it couldn't even be described as effective. That was aside from its everyday hazards. Losing himself in this false life, being overtaken by Daniel Laurier or bleeding out on the floor of some hallway, was unthinkable. He would count himself as saved when he was free of all of it.

He would have looked forward to Doyleton's food even before Aguilar had taken over the Institute, but now that the patients' diet had been changed, his anticipation of something as simple as a cup of coffee or a bowl of cantaloupe chunks had heightened exponentially. The plastic shopping bag from Callahan's crinkled at his side as he loped down Wicker Street alongside Lunge, and they soon found the restaurant where he had eaten lunch a week earlier.

Twin Pines wasn't crowded. L scanned the room, looking for familiar faces. He recognized a few passing acquaintances, most already deep in conversation with their table companions, but someone with whom he had a deeper association drew the majority of his attention: Edgar sat alone at a table, looking ill and weak.

L hesitated at the edge of the dining area. It would be stupid to put himself in a situation in which he knew he might get sick, and if it had been someone he hadn't spoken with in at least a few days, and he had no vital reason to to talk to them now, he would have avoided them until they were no longer contagious. However, if Edgar was coming down with something, L had probably already been exposed to it two nights earlier. If not, what was causing his symptoms? It might be an injury, it might be a sleep study. Either might or might not be interesting. Asking was the most direct way of finding out.

L sighed, shot a meaningful look at Lunge, then headed over to disrupt Edgar's sweaty solitude. "Tell me you don't have the flu."

[Response to top post, for Lunge and Edgar]

Edited at 2011-05-14 12:08 pm (UTC)

Now that had been a strange little stroll. Once they'd left the Inn, they'd walked down to Doyleton's grocery store- it wouldn't have been one of Lunge's choices of stops, but it all made sense when the first aisle L made for was the one displaying the candy and confections. Ten dollar's worth of assorted snacks went into a plastic bag- that sweet tooth at work again, it seemed. Between that, the sitting and the mild fixation with his fingertips, he had to wonder how many other little habits there were to the man that he had yet to witness. Sometimes it seemed he was simply a bundle of quirks, held together by that ceaseless, hounding sense of knowledge, of the need to know.

Of all the people here, Inspector Lunge was most glad to have found this one.

It seemed that his purchases were more a matter of stock than of immediate gratification, though, since their next stop brought them a little way back on Main Street, to the fast food restaurant in order to buy icecream. Well. In order for L to buy icecream, that was. Lunge didn't move. There wasn't much point in eating here when they would probably be going to the Twin Pines some time this afternoon, probably after the initial lunchtime rush.

Sure enough, icecream run finished, they made their way to the restaurant. L spotted Edgar before he did, sitting by himself with his hands covering his face, looking about as far from well as was possible. He didn't object when L approached him, though the surprise that they knew each other registered somewhere in the back of his mind as he followed him over to the table. Flu was a possibility, yes, though he'd yet to hear of someone becoming genuinely ill- most cases seemed to have been dreamed up by the Institute to account for disappearances.

Nodding to Edgar, he tilted his head thoughtfully. "I hadn't realised you'd met."

Edgar opened his eyes to the familiar voice, surprised to find not one, but two recognizable faces before him. He removed his hands from his face, clasping them to form a platform on which to lean his chin, trying to appear as composed as possible. With the sweat running past his temple, he was sure his degree of success was fairly low.

"I could say the same," he replied with a return nod, answering Lunge before addressing Ryuuzaki's question. He cleared his throat; his voice sounded much worse than he'd hoped. He kept his eyes on both of them, wondering just how far either man could be trusted. While he'd spent an entire night with Ryuuzaki— one that ultimately resulted in Ryuuzaki knowing more about Edgar than the other way around, but was enough that the king felt confident in his dependability— he'd only met Lunge once, during which time they were both scrubbing the floor. Though their conversation was brief, the inspector had lived up to his title.

However, it was important to note Ryuuzaki didn't place his trust in others easily— Edgar had seen that first-hand. If the inspector had held his company for at least some part of the day, one where the nurses didn't force an end to conversations and the patients could spend the majority of their trip with a single individual if they chose to, then it was a reasonable wager he was on Ryuuzaki's good side. That didn't answer whether or not he was trusted, but it couldn't hurt his chances.

Edgar's natural reaction was the shrug off his condition as much as possible in favor of the conversation, especially when it approached him so readily. As much as he'd been fighting for a wider spread of information, even he could tell this might not be the time or place for it, especially when it was his own tale of experimentation one the table. Then again, that may have been some lingering paranoia talking. The thought he might be on a slow descent into madness continued to nag him from the back of his mind. How unfortunate they'd caught him at one of his worst moments, when focusing through the constant ache and feverishness made any semblance of normality nearly impossible.

While he had no problems lying through his teeth to avoid a topic, it was a tactic Edgar preferred not to use on people he considered his potential allies. Avoidance, then. He was sure his pause was noticeable, his mind feeling as sluggish as his body.

"No, I don't have the flu," Edgar answered finally, his eyes on Ryuuzaki. "I'll be fine. I trust that, despite the changes Aguilar has made, you've been productive?"

L's rejoinder was quick, almost wry. "As productive as ever."

Not much productivity was feasible under the current restrictions--even less productivity than before--but he did what he could. He had the impression that the same could be said for Lunge and for Edgar, although what each of them thought of the other was still up in the air. L thought that Lunge might judge Edgar as more reliable than his easy manner would suggest if he understood more of his history. Edgar, for his part, might find Lunge too cagey, perhaps too aggressive. It would be interesting to observe them in a conversation when he could actually hear what they were saying.

The stiffness of boots around his ankles meant that L had a continuing inability to sit the way that felt most natural to him: perched on the seat of the chair, with a commanding view of his meal. He slid down into a chair across from Edgar. Upon deciding that his face was too close to the tabletop, he pushed himself up again and attempted to straighten his posture--without much success. Finally, he put an elbow on the table and supported his chin in his hand.

"To be honest, I'm aware that the two of you have met." The waitress arrived in the middle of that sentence, and he ordered coffee to start. Once she was gone, he saw no need to elaborate. They knew when they had spoken, and they could guess when he might have been around to notice it.

Too many people were around for him to want to discuss what he and Lunge had learned from the transcripts, so Edgar's condition was the obvious topic to pursue, at least for the moment. He had already noticed the hesitation, the reluctance to discuss it and the attempt to change the topic. That meant that its cause was probably traumatic. There was also nothing to suggest that Edgar was bandaged anywhere on the top half of his body. Injuries might be hidden by his clothes, but they would have to be below the sternum, which might interfere with walking enough to require a cane or wheelchair, neither of which were in evidence. Then, there was the perspiration. That couldn't be explained by an injury that apparently wasn't even severe enough to affect mobility. It all strengthened L's hunch that Edgar had been an experimental subject.

"A bad night, then." He modulated his tone: less casual, more gentle.

Edited at 2011-05-16 06:10 am (UTC)

Lunge couldn't say that Edgar's face looked any better than the hands that had been hiding it up until a moment ago, faintly damp with sweat and feverishly flushed, and when the man spoke it was almost at a creak- he was a far cry from the cool, centered man he'd spoken with on the cafeteria floor. Not through illness, either, since that was the first thing Edgar put right before promptly switching the subject over to progress (or the lack of progress). That it wasn't flu and that he'd tried to gloss over the details...

L seemed to reach the same conclusion as he did. 'A bad night' indeed. "In other words," he added wryly to L's reply, "as productively as possible under Aguilar's watch."

He took the seat next to L, thinking for a moment or two while his partner made himself comfortable and asked the waitress for a coffee, an order he matched. Learning to subsist largely on coffee was part and parcel of life on the force; these days it was difficult to think of food as anything but optional. That aside, he made note of the fact that L had presumably seen Edgar speaking with him the previous day; would he have approached Edgar if he hadn't known they'd met? Probably, he concluded: L seemed to trust him enough to introduce him to most of his colleagues, or at the very least enough that he didn't go out of his way to keep them from him.

As for the 'bad night', well. The phrase had any number of meanings here but one in particular seemed the attractive option, traumatic enough to make it difficult to talk about, and generally resulting in a wide range of after-effects, from temporary physical disability to stress. He couldn't help but feel a touch of sympathy (or was it empathy?) for Edgar, and apparently neither could L, judging by the change in tone.

At any rate, it was clear what the subject of their conversation was going to be, for now. He let the productivity drop and picked up on L's trail. Softly for now, in spite of his curiosity- he wasn't sure what sort of a man Edgar was, and pushing too far too early had the potential to backfire. "Would you care to elaborate?" It was a genuine question rather than a command, for now. A tactical choice rather than an emotional one, of course.

Edgar's teeth gritted together behind his lips, his body tensing. They saw through his attempt to switch subjects— as genuine as his curiosity had been, there was an ulterior motive— and united on the topic of their choosing. His eyes narrowed; he let his facade of composure slip. It wasn't something he was prone to do, but it was apparent they were drawing their own conclusions about his evening. To have gone from perfectly healthy to drastically ill in the course of a single day was bound to raise a few suspicions.

He lowered his face behind his clasped fingers, keeping his sight on both men- their eyes bored into him. They were analyzing him, weren't they? One of them was an inspector, but the other... it was clear Ryuuzaki was more perceptive than he let on at times, given his detail-oriented inclination. To have noted a brief conversation with Lunge on the cafeteria floor hinted more about Ryuuzaki's personality than a simple aversion to manual labor.

Edgar sighed to himself, his breath unnaturally hot on his hands. He wasn't one to throw all his cards onto the table at once, but there were no other viable options. They knew what had happened, Edgar knew they knew, and it was probable that they knew he knew they knew. To avoid Lunge's question after Ryuuzaki's deliberate lead-in would be a disservice to them all. It was a topic he'd hoped to avoid until he felt well enough to think clearly and was more assured in his continued sanity; however, perhaps it was best he shared what he could while he had the chance. For all he knew, the situation might only get worse come nightfall. It was endlessly frustrating to feel so out of control.

"They took both of us last night," Edgar answered finally, the lower half of his face still behind his hands. "Both my roommate and myself."

The waitress arrived at that moment with their drinks. Edgar thanked her only with a polite nod, taking the water and downing the entire glass in one go. Its cold temperature stung all the way through him, but he was grateful for what little relief it provided.

When the drinks arrived, L took a deeper breath than usual, inhaling the rich, warm scent. He'd been looking forward to coffee because of its scarcity, but the cold outside made it even more welcome, and if the beans were cheap and the blend was indifferent, if everything about the raw materials was inferior, he didn't care. Today, he'd take anything that wasn't overtly bad.

Before the waitress left the table again, he ordered a club sandwich, asking her to replace the fries--"and as much of the rest of it as you can," which earned him a strange look--with a dish of fruit salad. It wasn't the most appealing meal he could think of, but it was the best of the items on offer. He tore open the tops of three stacked paper packets of sugar and emptied them into his mug all at once. That taken care of, he could turn his attention back to the matter at hand.

It seemed unusual--mildly so--that Edgar and his roommate had both been taken on the same night, but not necessarily significant. L had no particular theory about how the administrative decision to take anyone was made. He felt a momentary temptation to develop one, but it passed; almost everything related to the sleep studies seemed like it was calculated to trap people with curious natures in an endless loop of investigation and distraction. There might be a pattern to the decisions, but it would be difficult to determine. Some victims weren't forthcoming with information, others disappeared, and the existing information wasn't connected to room numbers or dates. Even if those factors didn't exist, it would still be time-consuming to gather data related specifically to who was taken when, and he didn't think it was likely to mean enough that it would help them put an end to the Institute and return them to their points of origin. So, most likely a dead end.

Nonetheless, he could acknowledge the that results of his own experience, while frustrating, were also interesting. His brain had been altered in a way that he might find useful, if the ability he had been given didn't also have serious drawbacks. Assuming he was able to return home--the alternative was also a possibility, but unpleasant to dwell on--he would look into having the implant removed. If he couldn't find a surgeon who could do it without injuring him, he would have to change the way he worked; for one thing, interrogations would have to be conducted as indirectly as possible. Even if he hadn't already decided to go into hiding as soon as he could, he was beginning to understand that the implant also meant that he would have to avoid speaking to Yagami as much as possible. I'm relatively certain that more of what he says is untrue than true. He'd have me rolling on the floor in agony within an hour.

It seemed best to dismiss that thought, for the time being, and focus on the present matter: he had been staring past the surface of his mug of coffee for a few seconds, not noticing his own reflection in it. Following on Lunge's request for more detail, L turned his own expectant look towards Edgar. There had to be a reason why he seemed so overheated.

"What did they do? It seems that sometimes, the results of the procedure are marginally useful, and other times"--he didn't glance over at Lunge--"they do something that will hinder you. Often, the two come together... a lot of people have reported headaches in tandem with any new abilities they might have been given." He paused, stirring the sugar into the coffee, then sighed and added, "Whatever they did, the good news is that they're probably done with you."

Edited at 2011-05-29 04:47 pm (UTC)

At first, Lunge observed through the spiraling steam from his coffee as he lifted it to his lips, it seemed that Edgar's body language slammed down on all levels: the new tension in his posture, the slightest twitch in the muscles of his jaw before it sank out of sight behind clasped hands, all of it a far cry from the easy-going slopes he was used to recognising in the man. So they were right. Reluctance was to be expected, in that case.

But reluctance was not what met the two of them. After a few moments of careful inspection, Lunge was surprised to hear Edgar exhale into the space behind the shield his hands, and it was as though the sigh had released the pressure in his body to an uneasy surrender. His face was still largely hidden, but he knew that they'd reached a truce of some sort. He was going to talk.

And so he did, with the same quiet terseness he'd seen in others as well as, with hindsight, in himself. Took seemed to be the universal euphemism here. There was a certain cloaked unpleasantness to it that made it appropriate; the loss of choice inherent in the word, perhaps. He knew that well enough himself, as did L.

Then again that thought ran the risk of bleeding into personal territory, and so he worked around it towards technicalities instead. In that case, it was very likely that the sickness they were seeing now was directly linked to whatever had been done, as L seemed to be driving at in his own way; it would be interesting to see if Edgar would answer.

A pause. An incentive to talk... that might grease the wheels, so to speak. Swallowing his uncertainty, Lunge gave a little nod. "From the case notes I've read and personal experience, it doesn't seem to be the case that experiments are followed up in the same way that they are implemented." It wasn't direct, maybe, but it hopefully gave a sense of reciprocity. Of trust. "Not to overload you with questions, but- did they mention what the purpose of the exercise was at all?"

[SO SORRY GUYS. :( Seriously, no words for how sorry I am over this wait. Aside from that aforementioned sorry, and all of the ones following it. And probably a few more later.]

Had his discomfort not been grounding him, Edgar could have laughed at the news that a follow-up to his sleep study was unlikely. There wasn't much of a need for that when the staff was watching at all times, and when the doctor had admitted she wanted to see how he handled the infusion. While a secondary operation may not have been in his future, Edgar doubted they were truly done with him, or that they would be until they either got the results they were looking for or his will was shattered entirely. Luckily, he was not an easy man to break.

He shook his head- that sounded like paranoia crawling in him again. Perhaps he was only making things worse for himself. It was his fevered mind talking, the sickness getting to his head. It was an unseen enemy, and one he couldn't let affect him significantly. The situation was complicated enough as it was.

"They wanted to see how I would handle such a dangerous procedure," he answered finally. "Watch its effects and how I manage them. If I can manage them..."

Edgar paused again. Just much could he- or should he- say in front of Ryuuzaki and the inspector? One thing he'd come to realize was that magic wasn't just rare in some of the other worlds: it didn't exist at all, and mention of it as if it did would garner a look that sent one's credibility into question. It was one of the more delicate subjects, but one he was ultimately going to have to face. He trusted Ryuuzaki at this point to be able to judge him fairly, given the insight he'd gleaned only two nights prior; as for Lunge, how much could be safely shared with him was yet to be seen. However, with the way Ryuuzaki associated with him, the chances were that anything said would be fairly confidential.

"I was forced to undergo a process known as Magitek infusion," he continued quietly. "Injected with the blood of an Esper. It was developed to create Magitek knights- fighters who can wield magic. The procedure isn't widely used; partially because the people who developed it wanted to keep it to an elite group of soldiers. The other reason is that its rate for success isn't perfect. It can take a physical- and sometimes worse- toll on the subject." Another pause as he looked away, before adding darkly: "I know that too well."

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